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Year 2001 No. 48, March 14, 2001 Archive Search Home Page

Inquiry Prompts New Fears for Train Safety

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Inquiry Prompts New Fears for Train Safety

BAE Attempts to Enforce its Monopoly on Lucrative Military Contracts

Tony Blair Must Not Be Allowed to Block the Path to Progress by Imposing an Agenda on the Electorate

Actions against Stockholm Summit

IRA Issues Statement on Decommissioning

IRA Statement of March 8

International News:
Israel/Palestine: UN Palestinian Agency Condemns Israel for Siege against Palestinians

Mexico: Zapatistas Receive Rousing Welcome

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Inquiry Prompts New Fears for Train Safety

An inquiry set up to examine safety in the railway industry has found widespread fatigue amongst workers, a shortage of lookouts on maintenance work, and other concerns. Such is the pressure that it is reported that signallers can work 30 days without a break, train drivers working more than their 12-hour shifts, and maintenance contracting workers report falling asleep while driving between jobs.

This has been revealed by a system of encouraging workers to report threats to safety. The "Confidential Incident Analysis System" has been devised by Strathclyde University.

Railway workers and their trade unions have been increasingly warning of the dangers to safety through such incidents due to the workloads applied by the train operating companies and Railtrack. Workers have more than once balloted to strike over the issue, and the issue of safety is also one which is of concern to the London Underground workers, who are once again planning to strike if it is not resolved. The safety concerns are linked with the privatisation agenda on the railways and the Underground.

The report was released on the day, Monday, March 12, when two packed trains collided outside Hither Green station, south of London, at the height of the morning rush hour.

The issue facing the workers and the travelling public is how to ensure the safety which is being further jeopardised by the increased quantity and intensity of work in the course of the implementation of the privatisation agenda on the railways. The reporting of threats to safety shows the extent of the problems. But it is the programme of the workers themselves, in the context of the overall struggle against the neo-liberal agenda that is being applied by governments world-wide, that must be stepped up.

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BAE Attempts to Enforce its Monopoly on Lucrative Military Contracts

BAE Systems, the British aerospace group, is attempting to enforce a monopoly over military contracts with the Ministry of Defence.

It has written to the MoD suggesting that the competitive tendering for contracts is halted. In its latest effort, it is trying to stop a contest for a £13 billion programme to supply in-flight refuelling tankers for the RAF. This move comes on top of the monopoly's attempts to pre-empt competition for building destroyers and aircraft-carriers for the Navy.

BAE executives have made it clear to Baroness Symons, minister for defence procurement, that they want less emphasis on competition and instead want the MoD to award them contracts on a fixed price basis, on the grounds that otherwise the competition results in an "underpriced bid and insufficient government-funded work". Officials at the MoD are said to be shocked at BAE's arrogance on the contract for the tanker aircraft.

BAE is also making a similar effort to cut short a competition on aircraft-carriers against Thales of France and is embroiled in a battle on Type 45 destroyers, seeking to avoid having to share them with a smaller rival.

There is cut-throat competition for lucrative contracts among the monopolies which supply the big powers with their military vessels, aircraft and hardware. There is the most intense rivalry especially between US and European monopolies in this regard. This competition is further intensified by the formation of consortia amongst the monopolies themselves. BAE is involved in forming a consortium to fight for the refuelling tanker contract. This consortium will face a group including EADS, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space company, as well as Roll-Royce and Thales, and other companies. It is this competition which BAE is trying to eliminate and use its muscle to assert its claim to a total monopoly. Otherwise, it claims, it may suffer further losses such as the alleged loss of £300 million on a contract for Nimrod maritime patrol aircraft.

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Tony Blair Must Not Be Allowed to Block the Path to Progress by Imposing an Agenda on the Electorate

It has been reported that Tony Blair will put Europe at the heart of Labour's election campaign. It is said that he will use the results of the Stockholm summit of the EU on March 23-24 to set out the policy of "constructive engagement" in Europe.

This amounts to the bourgeoisie floating an agenda for the general election to see whether it will stick. At the same time, it catches the thrust of Tony Blair’s foreign policy, which is to intervene in its own interests throughout the world, answerable only to himself and the interests of business in the global market which he represents. As such, Tony Blair’s focus on Europe is following the maxim of his foreign policy programme, which is "strong in Europe, strong in the world". Tony Blair’s programme to "Make Britain Great Again" is to be pursued through Europe, at the same time as attempting to be the bridge between US imperialism and the Europe of the monopolies.

However, the point to focus on here, in relation to the election campaign – an election that has not yet been announced, and which the government is doing the maximum to prepare for while keeping the people’s forces unprepared – is that the party in government is the one which is deciding what the agenda should be. New Labour is to set the tone, the programme and the whole agenda of the campaign as much as it can, which the people are then coerced to follow. The electorate are again deprived of a legitimate choice, to set their own agenda and to call their representatives to account on this basis.

This imposition of an agenda by the ruling party has an aim. It is to assert that the political will of the electorate is identical with the programme of the party in power, the Labour Party. Once that can be established by Tony Blair, he would be able to say that nation and party, people and government, are at one in the programme to "Make Britain Great Again". The crimes which Tony Blair and the Labour Party have committed by armed and other intervention and interference abroad would be stepped up, with Tony Blair claiming a mandate to commit such crimes against humanity in the name of the people. The counterpart of this programme abroad is the further blocking of the path to progress at home, with the suppression of enlightenment taking place in the name of enlightenment.

The working class and people cannot allow that Tony Blair should foist such a programme on Britain without vigorous opposition. The working class must prepare to participate in the forthcoming election with precisely this aim, of not letting Tony Blair get away with any part of his reactionary "Third Way" programme in the name of the people without the working class asserting their own programme to open the way to a new society.

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Actions against Stockholm Summit

The European Council is to meet in Stockholm on March 23-24. The agenda, which is presently being discussed by Tony Blair and the Swedish Prime Minister, Goran Persson, in London, will focus on employment and growth. The heads of state and government meeting in Stockholm are due to take initiatives on the "active social state".

A European day of action is being held on March 23. The European Marches against unemployment, job insecurity and social exclusion are organising the day of action to reassert demands for the recognition of social rights and for a decent basic income. The organisers point out that, one year after Lisbon, the Stockholm Summit will focus its discussions on the issues of employment and a social agenda. In these circumstances, it presents an opportunity to call for a discussion among the people on the demand for a guaranteed income at a level under which, according to the GDP of the respective countries, it is unacceptable for income of the people to fall.

The European Day of Action of the Euromarch network is planned to take place in various cities around Europe, as well as actions being held in Stockholm from March 20-23.

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IRA Issues Statement on Decommissioning

In the context of the talks last week at Hillsborough Castle involving Tony Blair, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the pro-Good Friday agreement parties, the IRA issued a statement on decommissioning.

These talks broke up without an agreement on decommissioning, but according to a joint press conference of Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, the parties were determined to resolve the political differences.

Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, said that the British government risked "frittering away the gains made in recent years".

Later, speaking to Dublin delegates of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams said that the IRA was not to blame for the deadlock in efforts to bolster the Good Friday accord. He accused the British government of having "a fixation about IRA weapons". He insisted Britain needed to keep scaling down its military presence regardless of IRA actions. "There is no place in Ireland for the British army," he declared.

We reproduce herewith the IRA Statement in full.

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IRA Statement of March 8

The leadership of Oglaigh na h-Eireann has received a detailed briefing of the intensive negotiations which have taken place over the last eight weeks.

The British government's position shows that it is not prepared to uphold the commitments it made over the last number of years. This is totally unacceptable to the IRA. Despite this the leadership remains committed to the quest for a lasting peace in our country. This will only be achieved if everyone plays their part.

In recent years Oglaigh na h-Eireann has engaged in an unprecedented series of substantial and historic initiatives to enhance the Peace Process, including maintaining cessations over seven years, regular monitoring of arms dumps by International Inspectors and a commitment to the creation of a future in which the causes of conflict are resolved by peaceful means.

As an earnest of our commitment, and despite the British government's position, the IRA leadership has decided to enter into further discussions with the IIVCD.

This will be on the basis of the IRA leadership's commitment to resolving the issue as contained in our statement of May 6th 2000 and on no other basis.

For this engagement to be successful, the British government must deliver on its obligations. It must return to and deliver on the agreement made with us on May 5th 2000.

At that time the two governments in a joint letter and a joint statement set out commitments for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement by June 2001.

The British Government publicly and privately committed itself to deal with a range of matters including human rights, equality, justice, demilitarisation and policing.

The record shows that the IRA have honoured every commitment we have made including the opening of IRA arms dumps to inspections by the agreed International Inspectors, Cyril Ramaphosa and Maarti Ahtisaaroi. We have done so despite the abuse of the Peace Process by those who persist with the aim of defeating the IRA and Irish republicanism and the obvious failure of the British government to honour its obligations.

The political responsibility for advancing the current situation rests with the two governments, especially the British government and the leadership of the political parties.

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International News


UN Palestinian Agency Condemns Israel for Siege against Palestinians

The UN Palestinian relief agency on Saturday, March 10, accused Israel of imposing siege against the Palestinian people, saying that the arbitrary practices have violated international law.

Peter Hansen, commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), made the accusation at a news conference. Peter Hansen warned that a humanitarian catastrophe would take place in the Palestinian self-rule areas if Israel continues its policy of blockade and aggression against the unarmed Palestinians.

The Palestinian agriculture sector has been "sharply worsened" during the past six months following Israel’s plans to uproot trees, destroy citrus orchards and other crops under allegations of ensuring security for Jewish settlers, Peter Hansen said. He said that he would meet with Arab foreign ministers in Cairo on Monday to review the worsening conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, adding that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan was exerting intensive diplomatic efforts to find a political solution to the humanitarian issue.

Israel has imposed a military blockade on the Palestinian territories since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising against Israeli aggression last September.

Peter Hansen said that the UNRWA has called for $39 million of emergency food and medicine aid for the Palestinian people, and the appeal was receiving response from the world community.

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Zapatistas Receive Rousing Welcome

Amid rousing cheers from 100,000 supporters, the Zapatista Indigenous March for Peace entered Mexico City's Zocalo plaza on Sunday, March 11.

Arriving beneath a banner that read "Nevermore a Mexico Without Us!" Subcommander Marcos and 23 Commanders of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) put forward demands for the approval of a law on aboriginal rights and culture, the essence of which is autonomy of the indigenous people.

"Let this be clear," Marcos said, "We aren't going to leave here until there is a constitutional recognition of Indian rights and culture." Speaking in the national plaza, with a huge Mexican flag in front of them and the National Palace at the back, Marcos said, "Mexico we do not come to tell you what to do... We ask that you do not allow another dawn without the flag having a place for us." Commenting on Mexican President Vincente Fox's government, he said, "We are part of the world moving toward recognising differences and he is working toward hegemony and homogenising, not just the country, but the world." As another EZLN leader put it, referring to a common phrase of the Mexican President, "We don't want a little business, a compact car and a television. We are fighting for our rights."

The triumphant arrival in Mexico City follows a two-week long caravan where tens of thousands of indigenous peoples and Mexicans greeted the Zapatistas, with hundreds joining the caravan along the way. Honouring two revolutionary leaders of Mexico, Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Pancho Villa, for the last portion of the caravan the Zapatistas followed the path taken by Zapata as he marched to Mexico City to meet with Villa in 1914. The symbolism of another patriotic force openly rallying in the plaza and supported by thousands was not lost on participants.

The Zapatistas are meeting with a congressional commission to press for the passing of the law on aboriginal rights and culture. The Zapatistas are also demanding that the Fox government release over 100 political prisoners and withdraw the military to positions occupied before the war in Chiapas in 1994. The Mexican President has so far refused to meet these minimum demands.

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